Fatty Acid, Ketone Body, and Triacylglycerol Metabolism

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Chapter: Biochemistry : Fatty Acid, Ketone Body, and Triacylglycerol Metabolism

Fatty acids exist “free” in the body (that is, they are unesterified) and as fatty acyl esters in more complex molecules such as triacylglycerols (TAGs).


Fatty Acid, Ketone Body, and Triacylglycerol Metabolism

 

OVERVIEW

Fatty acids exist “free” in the body (that is, they are unesterified) and as fatty acyl esters in more complex molecules such as triacylglycerols (TAGs). Low levels of free fatty acids (FFAs) occur in all tissues, but substantial amounts can sometimes be found in the plasma, particularly during fasting. Plasma FFAs (transported on serum albumin) are in route from their point of origin (TAG of adipose tissue or circulating lipoproteins) to their site of consumption (most tissues). FFAs can be oxidized by many tissues, particularly liver and muscle, to provide energy and, in liver, to provide the substrate for ketone body synthesis. Fatty acids are also structural components of membrane lipids, such as phospholipids and glycolipids. Fatty acids attached to certain proteins enhance the ability of those proteins to associate with membranes. Fatty acids are also precursors of the hormone-like prostaglandins. Esterified fatty acids, in the form of TAGs stored in white adipose tissue (WAT), serve as the major energy reserve of the body. Alterations in fatty acid metabolism are associated with obesity and diabetes. Figure 16.1 illustrates the metabolic pathways of fatty acid synthesis and degradation and their relationship to carbohydrate metabolism.


Figure 16.1 Triacylglycerol synthesis and degradation. CoA = coenzyme A.

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